I lived my dream” by Neil Mellor

All I ever wanted to do was become a professional footballer for as long as I can remember. Many young boys share the same dream I did, but I was one of the lucky ones to actually play professionally.

It wasn't easy the route to progress right through to play first team football. Plenty of challenges along the way with injuries coming and going interrupting at key times. One thing that remained throughout was my desire to want to become a professional footballer. I was born in 1982 and throughout my childhood of the late 80s early 90s all I dreamed of doing was playing football.

I was lucky you might say that my dad was a former professional footballer himself, Ian Mellor who also played top flight football in England at Manchester City and Norwich City. Then again the added pressure was there from an early age also that because my dad was a player that his son, me, would be expected to be at a decent level also. I was. My older brother wasn't and he never made it into the professional game but like me he loved football also and benefitted greatly from advice.

To make it as a professional footballer I without doubt had talent, I had luck at certain times, I was patient at times, I took my opportunity when it came but to do all that I had to work extremely hard, make sacrifices and be fully committed and focussed on making it as a footballer.

I'm now 33 and yes I would love to say I did this and I did that in the game. I would love to still be playing the game of course but I'm not and that is the harsh reality for me with injury ending it too soon.  Did I fulfil my career? I don't know. Easy to make excuses saying Injuries played a part, I broke into a premier league side just when the arrivals of continentals were becoming all too familiar for the top clubs to load squads with but I can't change the outcome.

I'm grateful I did live my dream and unfortunately it ended prematurely for me which is something I have had to accept because it can't be changed I still look back on reflection at my career and smile thinking about the great moments and memories I have from the game I love.  I played Champions League and Premier League football at Liverpool, I played Championship football at Preston North End, loan spells at West Ham in the Championship, Wigan Athletic in the Premier League and Sheffield Wednesday in League 1. It all ended for me at PNE in league 1. Managers, all different experiences but to listen and learn from some of the best in the game was something I will never forget.

Neil Mellor of Liverpool celebrates scoring the second goal during the Champions’ League Group A match between Liverpool and Olympiakos at Anfield on December 8, 2004

Neil Mellor of Liverpool celebrates with Steven Gerrard after scoring the first goal during the Sheffield United v Liverpool Worthington Cup Semi-Final, first leg match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on January 8, 2003

I know I am fortunate enough to be still involved in the game from within the media now. It's still relatively fresh for me coming out of the game and I count myself fortunate I can report regularly on games throughout the English leagues for Sky Sports.

It's 2016 and the game has grown so much from when I wanted to be a professional footballer. The rewards are much greater but the desire to want to be a professional footballer will never change as a key ingredient to achieving that dream.

Advice, I have heard plenty throughout my time. For me I would say to any young player, how much do you want to be a professional footballer?  Well it's up to you and nobody else to go and make it happen. Maintain that desire and be the best you can to give yourself the best possible chance of making it. There are no shortcuts to working hard and making those sacrifices if you want to fulfil your dream of being a footballer.

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